Kohl container - ROM2018_16224_49


Kohl container

Medium:Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)
Geography: Egypt
Date: c. 2055-1650 BC
Period: 11th-13th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom
4.6 x 4.4 cm
Object number: 909.80.197
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This small container once held kohl, the eyeliner of the Ancient Egyptians.  The wide collar would have supported a lid.  The shape is a little unusual in that the smooth exterior walls expand toward the bottom, rather than curving as most kohl containers, such as 909.80.158A, do. 

Both sexes wore kohl, and it was applied to children as well.  Ancient Egyptians believed that the use of mesdjemet was both attractive and beneficial.

The oldest Egyptian black eyeliner was made of stibnite, the sulphide of antimony. It was produced by grinding the stone on a palette. Later galena, a sulphide of lead, was used.  Both are toxic, but the Ancients may have found their ability to protect the eyes from bright sunlight and to discourage visits from insects made wearing kohl worth the risk.  Some ancient kohl was made of charcoal from burned plants or resins.

The chief health benefit of kohl may be in cutting down the glare of the sun's rays. There has been some dispute about how much lead from eyeliner actually enters the blood-stream, so that concerns over this issue have made the use of antimony and galena in kohl illegal in most western countries

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